‘Ten Walks / Two Talks’ mixes travel notes and transcripts of conversations from Jon Cotner and Andy Fitch into a super original work of nonfiction, a meditation on place.
“Ten Walks / Two Talks updates the meandering and meditative form of Bashō’s travel diaries.
Mapping 21st century New York, Cotner and Fitch tap their predecessor’s collaborative tendencies in order to construct a descriptive / dialogic fugue. The book combines a series of sixty-minute, sixty-sentence walks around Manhattan and a pair of dialogues about walking—one of which takes place during a late-night “philosophical” ramble through Central Park.”
1. Getting the book
Getting books in here in Patagonia is sort of magical. The roads are muddy and the special delivery mailman rides an old bike. He always comes in the morning when it’s cold. You have to sign something. Then you go back in where it’s warm. You sit back down by your coffee and computer and rip open the package noting the New York address.
2. Opening the package
I looked at the Hiroshige prints on the cover and felt stoked. The book was small (85 pages) and I love books that can be shoved in a coat pocket. The table of contents read, “Early Spring, Early Winter, Late Spring, Late Winter.” The epigraph was by Bashō. The Ugly Duckling Press materials explained that this was part of the Dossier Series: “publications that don’t share a single genre or form. but rather an investigative impulse.”
3. Reading the first chapter
The opening paragraph read:
Still spinning out Kristin’s door I decided to change plans. The air stirred gently, made me think of flags. At 9:26 I saw the clean backs of waitresses in a Gee Whiz Diner window.
I kept going:
Pigeons spread up sidewalk on Grand, tearing at cinnamon-raisin bagels. I plowed through then felt bad approaching their patron–a compact lady with bags. One mom strained to tie garbage bags without gloves. One squat guy hauled heavy cement-mix bags to a pick-up. Each time he spun back to the vestibule he faced a chic tall mannequins in short denim skirts. He seemed to appreciate this.
4. Finishing first chapter and analyzing
I finished the first chapter, and saw that the next chapter was in a different form. I was tired and went to bed. But I felt really excited and like I would learn things studying the style of this first chapter. Later I figured out some of the structures used:
5. Reading the next chapters
The next day I got sick and was in the bed but was glad I had this book to read. I read through the next three chapters during the day / night as I was going in and out of sleep / fever. The third chapter was another week’s walks written in the same style as above. The other two chapters were transcripts of conversations (including ambient noise) between the authors recorded as they were walking around Central Park, and later, Union Square, W.F. (a natural grocery store).
In some ways the transcripts reminded me of Braided Creek by Jim Harrison and Ted Koosier (a book of hundreds of short poems sent to each other that describe different walks the two poets are taking / things they’re observing.)
But instead of having a conversation through poems, Cotner and Fitch are just kind of vibing, relaxing, having conversations in New York – it’s very transparent (including stutters, grammar mistakes–and one talking over the other) and immediate:
A: You’d you’d mentioned paths to the subway station. Lately I never stop moving walking up or down Manhattan. So long as you stay aware of what the the upcoming light says you can run and make it (although this gets hared [Cough] Holland Tunnel). But I’ll wonder if you find New York walks continuous as they should be say, on the hills of Santa Fe–or has there been jostling, pausing, restarting?
J: No I’ve shared your smooth continuous experience, and I haven’t read much Lyn Hejinian, but she makes the same remark in My Life.
A: About New York specifically?
J: Yes about New, about how this great metropolis provides the sensation of crossing through sheer wildern. .
J: And I’ve noticed . .
A: That sounds slightly different.
J: even if my path gets blocked by cars or a Don’t Walk sign I can cut to side-streets since I’ll have no destination.
A: I’ll save side-streets as long as I can, so when I need one I’m ready to turn.
J: Sure I love in this city the constant dialogue between drivers and pedestriians. It also. .
A: And, Let’s say, deliverymen. .
(Six more lines of dialogue here, then):
J: Yes you feel this great sense of cooperation.
6. Final thoughts
Please visit Ugly Duckling Presse for more information and to buy this book.
Do other countries (like Japan? France? England?) have a greater (percentage-wise) readership of books that could be classified as “Poetry/Nonfiction”?
What other publishers besides Ugly Duckling are publishing “Poetry/Nonfiction”?